Thursday, September 30, 2010

Remembering the Devastating Winter of 2006

We, here in AZ, are waiting for "fall" to begin.  We can only hope it will start soon, but honestly, it still feels like summer.  During a conversation at the Botanical gardens last weekend, this extremely rare snow event was brought up during a discussion about the horticulture business in Tucson. Plant nurseries lost millions of dollars to this storm. So while we suffer in hot, humid conditions, here are some cool thoughts from that chilly November of 2006. The following pics are from my own camera and from other Tucson viewers at the time. (off of the KOLD website-the pics are no longer  there unfortuneatly, but I saved a few:).
Can we say Christmas card?

A KOLD viewer took this of their puppies playing:)

My car Goldy(RIP)

I got up early and took this pic from my backyard!

Some of these plants died in this pic:(

My hood

 The fence around my patio
One winter to rule them was one evil November day that caused massive plant death and millions of dollars of damage to the Tucson nurseries.  It was the first(and probably the last) time in my Arizona teaching career that I ever had a snow day from work. People from the cooler regions understand and appreciate the excitement of a snow day:)   I couldn't believe my eyes as I looked out my apartment window at the time and saw SNOW!!!  My tropical patio suffered a major set back and I couldn't do anything about it.

To this day, gardeners still talk about that winter "5 or 6 years ago" that killed so many trees and plants.  I discovered that the Silver Dollar Eucalyptus, while one of my favorite trees, is not that cold hardy.  As a consquence from that storm in Tucson, most of those trees died....some were very very old.  Today, you won't find as many of those trees around the Old Pueblo anymore.  Other varieties of Eucalyptus stood the test of Mother Nature's fury.......

Winter in Tucson:)

A cold evening after....Look at how the snow blanket covered my neighborhood. I'm on a hill looking down and Mt. Lemmon is in the background.  This is in the Foothills near Sunrise and Swan

Due to this topic being brought up in class, I thought, "Hey great idea....share those beautiful winter pics!!"  It was a one day event but boy the aftermath was felt for years.  Old trees were taken one neighborhood, they had a line of those silver dollar eucs and it took them 2 years to remove the dead giants.  That is why today I won't plant certain trees because all it takes is one night to kill many years of work.  I will admit secretly that I planted several Jacaranda knowing that a snow storm could kill them.......but my heart longs for the Jac:) And once you see the purple blooms on the tree or covering the ground, you will want to plant one yourself:)  Maybe two....or three......Enjoy the pics!!  PS.  You better start your Christmas shopping now....don't procrastinate like I do:)

From Mt. Lemmon

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Black Plague....of Roses

So yesterday I went outside and discovered that my roses could be doing better, but they aren't.  The roses are small and shriveled and I noticed the stems/canes are black.  I went crazy today and cut all the black slippery stems off and thorned myself on several occassions using some bad language.  I talk a lot to myself when I'm working with the plants and don't realize that I am talking outload sometimes. If only I could see how I look to my neighbors....:)  It must be quite the sight. 

Notice the black canes on the left and the healthy green ones on the right. What is going on?
My sense is that I overwatered these guys and created a fungal disease. Canker?

Here is where you all might have something to say.......
I trimmed the bushes to the ground leaving the main canes shorter and then I moved the irrigation tube. All suggestions were to remove the black canes so that they didn't infect other canes....well that made me cut the bushes severely as a lot of black canes were attached to the main node.  I will put some fertilizer down and this may be a waste of time?  I am new to roses and they are treated a bit differently than some of our other I'm wondering, am I doing the right thing?  Help!!:)

Monday, September 27, 2010

Pruning Do's and Don'ts

Palo Verde in bloom; taken in June

Last weekend, I went to another session of working in the garden at the Tucson Botanical Gardens and again, it was another meaningful session that focused on garden maintenance and pruning.  This particular article will focus on the pruning part as I thought it was interesting.

One of the greatest mysteries for me about gardening is how to prune a tree....I know when you clip a branch, several sprouts will shoot out from around the end.  With trees, it's trickier and could be a very costly mistake.  I have always called on the professionals to do that particular job not only because of the height of the tree and the use of heavy equipment, but also because I want to make sure I don't damage these important plants in our my 2 80+ year old oak trees.   In February or March, I begin the "hair cut", but I only do this when the trees need it and it's definitely not every year.  A healthy tree should have space between the branches for air to move.  There are 3 important cuts that I discovered. The illustration is above....
Cut 1.  It's the mini cut under the branch so that the bark won't peel away in case a limb falls and damage the tree.
Cut 2. Is the major cut....close to cut one that will remove the weight.
Cut 3.  This is the delicate cut in which you will cut closely to the branch or trunk.  This is THE most important cut of them all because you will want to make sure your tree heals properly. 
Remember that branch angles in formation of U or much better than a V.  A U formation creates a stronger tree.

Lion Tailing is bad and ruins a tree. It is the removal of all the inner laterals and foliage. It then causes weakend branch structure and breakage. This is what I like to call the weird "Umbrella" look. It also makes it prone to tip over during our monsoon storms...especially during a microburst. I have noticed that people use a similiar strategy with crepe myrtle....again this technique weakens the structure of the tree.  It is commonly done by professional landscapers so be careful.  If you are paying someone to trim your tree(s) and you care about your tree(s), you should stay home and watch the procedures done.  There is nothing worse than you getting home and seeing a favorite plant butchered by someone else's hand.  I stay home on those days with my arborist and go over any procedure before he does it.  He's a great guy and I trust him, but I want to know what he's going to cut before he does anything to my plants. Education is everything!! Usually he comes to me the day before and we go over the details. On the following day with his crew, he'll work his magic.:)

Adding tar on a tree cut is not recommended and it will, on occassion lock in bacteria, etc and begin killing the tree.  The only recommended action, of this type during our discussion, was painting the citrus trunk white to protect against the sun burn.  Citrus plants are not meant to be trees as they are really bushes.  However, people like the tree form better and cut all the branches and leaves that naturally protect the trunk from the sun. Personally I like the citrus for the bushier look.

When should someone prune a tree?
-when there is dead wood
-when there are crossing branches
-when there is diseased wood


What type of equipment do I use?
-Hand pruner for a branch less than 1/2 inch
-Loopers for a branch up to 1 inch
-Pruning saws for anything thicker

Pruning Young Trees
-Do not remove lower branches for 2-3 years as the goal is to establish a strong trunk
-Establish desired branch spacing
-Avoid pruning in hot weather to avoid sunburn on trunk

Reason for Pruning Mature Trees
-Crown cleaning
-Crown thinning
-Crown reduction
-Crown raising or elevating(so that people can walk under the tree)

When to prune
-in Spring as it encourages growth
-in Fall to reduce plant size but it is suggested that you avoid fall pruning as it is slower to heal and more likely to decay from cold and wet wait until Spring:)

A tree should be
1/3 Trunk
2/3 Canopy

Wooden stakes?
"Yes" to keep the rootball from tipping over during a windstorm and "no" to keep a tree to bend a certain way. Two stakes if you use this method.
I stake at my place for newly planted trees only so that they don't fall out or tip over from their freshly made hole.  Trees need to have moving space so that when the wind blows the trunk around, it will send signals to its' root system strengthening it into the ground.

Watering new trees.
The irrigation drip should be kept close the first year and moved further away as the tree gets older so that it can extend it's roots into further ground.  A tree will tip over if the water line is not moved after the first year as this encourages the tree's roots to stay in one place.  I've had personal issues with this particular problem.  I lost two beautiful trees that way because I didn't move the drip system away and it killed me....two year of love and they die!! Trees should have their roots a depth of 18 to 36 inches.

It was a lot of information, but I felt like it was one of the best classes yet.  Hope this helps you in your own garden....until my next blog on garden maintenance:)

Sunday, September 26, 2010

A Tucson tradition-the Greek Festival

My personal fav...:)

Here are some of the highlights from last night.  The food was amazing as always.  This festival kicks off our Autumn here and a lot of people look forward to event.  It has been going on now for 35 years. The first vid below shows one of my former students dancing.  He's the guy in the green shirt.

Here's the link to their official site....


Saturday, September 25, 2010

Interesting Plants

Mesquite Pods

Happy weekend!  I just got back today from another brilliant class on garden maintenance and pruning. Again, I received way too much information to put in one blog plus I have more to write about on a Tucson tradition.  Stay tuned for some helpful Tucson tips on yard maintenance, fertilizing, and pruning along with one of Tucson's great events of the year....the Greek Festival.  But for now, I wanted to share some interesting plants I have been keeping my eye on at the Botanical Gardens.....


equisetum hyemale

Agave Desmettiana

Madagascar Palm
                                       or pachypodium lameri...this one is frost I would bring it indoors on below 40 degree nights...... 

Here are some random pics to add to the mix....nothing to do with plants...experimental shots with light and darkness......not good but you can see what the top of my roof looks like:)

At full image, it is a bit blurry

Two of my kitties sunning

Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Harvest Moon

The beginning of fall.....and a harvest moon.  Tonight look out your window and you'll see some stunning views of our moon.  I am a huge Star Trek fan and wish that I could one day travel the stars.  The universe is a wondrous place.

Taking pics at night with this camera is have to monkey around with a lot of buttons....but it's good enough for now:)  Fall has now arrived!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Central Mexico and the Awakening

If you could go back in time and change something, would you??  Sometimes, when I was younger, I wished I had never grown up in Wisconsin but instead in Mexico. What I am about to write is a bit personal and connects to the magic within my heart and my soul....if I had not gone on this trip as a senior in high school, I may have never met the people who would change my life forever and lead me to my life's work. This entry relates to the garden in that these images below have inspired me in my own work from these travels.  Nowhere....and I mean this....nowhere has any place touched me as has Mexico. It is a country of many wonders and mysteries.  Here is the beginning of my journey into Spanish, gardening, and the spirituality that surrounds me.  I became the person I am today because of my many experiences in Mexico.  These pictures begin from 1991 until  present......
My Mexican Host Mother of 20 years

This pic was taken in Mexico City nearly 20 years ago.  We were all little kids back then and I had very little travel experience.  I was the most naive person back in those days, but that would change over the course of many years from study and time in Mexico.  Later I would study in Guadalajara and discover the powers of monsoon and the beauty of the deserts.  This pic was taken before I met my host family.  All I knew at that time was that the food was amazing....Mexico City was incredible....the parks were out of this world....and coming from my little town of Two Rivers, WI..... I discovered the world was a BIG place full of wonders that I had only dreamt of.....and dreamt I had......

People believe in many things....a God, Gods, The Nothing(like from the NeverEnding Story:)...I believed that I was meant to come to Mexico....that something called me here.  It would be years later that I would only understand what it all meant.  As a child growing up, I knew at a very early age that Two Rivers would be a place I escaped.  I had always known that I would leave....always.  It wasn't TV.  It wasn't from was something more.  I would have dreams of meeting vague people who called out to me. I would walk towards them only to wake up....and it would make me sad. It was like a calling....the dreams weren't often, but they happened enough for me to remember them.  I didn't understand what they meant, and I admit that I was lost and bored as a bored that I would get in trouble quite a bit just to pass the time.  I was awkward...and confused about myself....keeping secrets from people....never really embracing the person inside until later on in life.  I did alright in high school...but I had no passions about anything....not even, surprisingly, the Spanish language.  In fact, I almost dropped the course 2nd year as I had a D-, but my Mom put a kabash on that........

And so I went my Senior year of high school to Mexico....paid by me.....stuck with Spanish just so that I could go to Mexico because it was a dream......

I stepped from my bus in the city of Tlaxcala and met my host family for the first time......and it was like I knew them somehow.....and they knew me.  I experienced some sort of awakening that never before had I felt....a joy that cannot be described...but a feeling of contentment....that things would be alright. This pic below is my first night here with my host sister Elsa.  It was an incredible feeling of happiness.  It was like a piece of the puzzle came together and I was meant to be with these people.
The volcano of Popocateptl

And so I grew up......came home to Wisconsin....depressed because I didn't want to come back.  I spent nights crying one understanding the feeling of my heart being ripped out of my chest having to say good-bye to the people I had come to know and love.  It was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do.....saying good-bye to something that touched me spiritually.....breaking a connection that was newly established.....and it was a dark time for me in my life for the year that followed my first trip.  But I returned not once or twice......but many many times again....every time it changed....marriages, my nieces....friends coming....and friends going....and growing bigger, balder,  and older:)

It was on this particular trip below in '93 that a revelation was made to me....In my host family's house, there is a picture of 3 children playing on a beach.  I only knew of two host brother Sergio and my host sister Elsa.....the other boy was a mystery.  My Mexican mother saw me looking at the pic and pointed to that boy and said it was me and that I had come back to her.  He had passed away the year I was born. It was one of the most incredible things that anyone has ever said to me and yet, it made sense. Why did I have this pull to Mexico?  I can't tell you of any other time in my life when something so incredibly powerful took hold of me.....a moment of spiritual clarity.....and it gave me direction and a strength that made me come out of my cocoon. It wasn't that I was lost and looking for this to happen.....but I do know that as a child growing up, something called me.....and the dreams...the deja vus....lead me to this one singular moment.  I don't have those dreams anymore....I still have dreams of a different nature....not often, but enough times to remember speaking to my grandparents who passed and waking up with happy tears....making me wish I had spent more time with them when they were alive.  Time keeps ticking and we take too many things for granted. 
In the mountains of Puebla.....
Teotihuacan, Mexico CityDeath is a celebration! Marigolds represent death.A central park in San Pablo

So what happened? Well, you still have to continue living.  I no longer question my faith and I discovered an inner peace that I never had before. I also learned that you can't escape the demons even if you move to new places, and that you have to accept them...learn to live and resolve them inside. I have been blessed with two wonderful biological and my Mexican:) What a gift to be given....that I can love so many people who have made a difference in my life.  Yes....there is a duality that sometimes separates me from ever feeling a part of one group, but I found Tucson is the best of both worlds for now until I figure out how I can live in Mexico one day...perhaps retire.  I have had to accept that and it wasn't an easy decision.  My garden reflects my travels...specifically Mexico...the plants....connect me to another place....a peaceful place that inspires and makes me dream. It is for that reason that gardening to me is more than just digging really is a religion...a connection to that other world that awaits.
A plate of tasty grasshoppers
The volcano in the distance....

Cacaxtla, Tlaxcala

When I visit Mexico, I am truly in my happiest of spaces.  I laugh....I feel whole.....and it makes me complete.  Plus you can't go wrong with the food, the people, the parties....and the HOLIDAYS!!
Sometimes I wonder...if I had not taken that trip my senior year, would I be a lost soul today?  Where would I be now? But having gone, I created a longing to be a part of something that I couldn't have.
So the question is....If you could go back in time and change something, would you?